Arabic is being used less frequently in the Gulf, because of the increasing population of foreigners in these countries, and is in danger of vanishing, a sociology expert says.
In most Gulf countries today the majority of the population is made up of foreigners who have come there to seek employment and they do not speak Arabic.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, fewer than 20 percent of the four-million-strong population are Emiratis, while the rest hail from other countries, with more than 1.5 million from India alone.
“There is a big concern in this country about the death of Arabic as a language and the death of Arabic culture,” says Muhammad Aboelenein, chairman of the sociology department at the UAE University.
Some argue that Arabic will never die because it is the language of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, and Muslims are very keen to preserve their Islamic traditions, he adds.
“However, others are concerned about the diversity of languages and cultures in the UAE, to the extent that Arabic might fade away and will be replaced by English, as the international language in which almost everybody can communicate,” he told The Media Line.
“There is real concern among politicians and educators about what will happen with the language over the next few years if the situation continues, with more people coming here speaking different languages.”
News reports suggest that restaurants in Dubai have been warned they must provide menus in Arabic as well as in English.
Thousands of foreigners, mostly from Asian countries, have flocked to the UAE in recent years seeking employment and profiting from the oil and construction boom in the Gulf.
But the diversity of languages has created a language barrier. English is being partially used as a solution, but locals have also created a hybrid language from Arabic and Asian languages, which is used for communication with the foreigners, Aboelenein says.
“People are getting to know more English than before. There’s a large focus on it in education, and the university where I work has started to use English as a teaching language,” he says.